Discovering Varieties of Alder Trees and Shrubs

Discover Varieties of Alder Trees and Shrubs

Alder trees and shrubs (Alnus spp.) are found in the Betulaceae, from the birch family. Almost all of them are deciduous. These are fast-growing trees and shrubs, so they can be used to help fill in a landscape and provide shade sooner than other species. They do love areas with moist or wet soil with good drainage if available. If the roots are established, they can tolerate a little drought.

These trees and shrubs are monoecious, so you will have both male and female flowers present on each plant. They present as catkins, with the males being longer than the females. Once the females are pollinated, the catkins mature and become woody. They are somewhat similar in appearance to the cones found on conifers. The dry fruit, a winged samara, is housed inside.

This genus is able to fixate nitrogen. In many plants, they are not able to harness the nitrogen that is naturally found in the atmosphere, so they have to rely on what is present in the soil or be fertilized. Plants with nitrogen fixation capabilities form symbiotic relationships with bacteria that allow them to capture that element. In the case of ​alders, it is with the Frankia bacteria. This quality allows them to grow on less fertile soils where other plants may struggle.

These trees and shrubs can be an integral part of a butterfly garden since there are many different species that use the leaves as larval food. Birds like to eat the seeds. Catkins are able to be eaten by humans—though they are not very tasty—and are a source of protein.

Alder wood is one of two kinds used to make Fender guitar bodies, with ash being the other one. According to Fender’s site, alder was first chosen because it was plentiful. It also has good sound properties and is easy to finish with stains. The two most common species used to make their guitars are the black alder (Alnus glutinosa) and the red alder (Alnus rubra).

Alder is considered to be a hardwood and is used frequently to make cabinets, doors, furniture, flooring, and other products. Knotty alder is a popular choice for a more rustic look.

Garter Snake Facts

Garter snakes are among the most common snakes in North America, with a range spanning from Canada to Florida. Often kept as pets, they are relatively harmless, although some species do possess a mild neurotoxic venom. However, it is not dangerous to humans.

Where did the garter snake get its funny name? According to Doug Wechsler, a wildlife biologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia and author of «Garter Snakes» (Powerkids, 2001), their stripes resemble garters men used to wear to hold up their socks. Another theory is that it is a corruption of the German word for “garden.” Garter snakes are sometimes erroneously called «garden snakes.»

Physical characteristics

Garter snakes come in a wide variety of colors depending on the species, but “most have three longitudinal stripes — one in the center of the back and one on each lower side of the body,» according to herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. «In most species, the stripes are yellowish or greenish, but this varies with species and region.”

Some garter snakes have intricate splotchy patterns between their stripes, making them look checkered. And their appearance really does depend on the species — Beane pointed out that some garter snakes are “virtually stripeless.”

Garter snakes are relatively small, usually between 23 and 30 inches (58 and 76 centimeters), though sometimes growing as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters). Beane described them as “slender to moderately stout-bodied . [with scales that are] obviously keeled,” meaning they have a ridge down the center. He added that many species of garter snakes have two-colored tongues.

These non-venomous snakes are the most common reptile in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. They live near water and eat small rodents as well as tadpoles, snails and leeches. (Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


Beane described garter snakes as «generalists, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats.» They live in woodlands, meadows and grassy knolls and like to be near water, especially «in the arid parts of the West,» Beane said.

The common garter snake occurs throughout North America, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and into southern Canada, according to the Virtual Nature Trail at Pennsylvania State University New Kensington.

The garter snake is abundant in the eastern United States; it is the state reptile of Massachusetts.While no snakes are known to be native of Alaska, a road-killed specimen of a garter snake was found near Haines, Alaska, in 2005, according to an article in the Journal of Herpetology. Researchers who identified the snake through mitochondrial DNA concluded that the single snake represented a relict, or remnant, population, a recent natural colonization or a fresh introduction.


Garter snakes are generally active during the day. Beane described them as “relatively fast-moving [and] highly terrestrial, but [some] may climb into shrubs or vines; some species climb more than others.” Wildscreen’s ARKive Initiative pointed out that some species are also excellent swimmers.

When threatened, garter snakes give off a bad-smelling musk. Because of their small size, garter snakes have many predators, including hawks, crows, bears, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, foxes, squirrels and raccoons, according to the Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a database maintained by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology.

Cold-climate garter snakes hibernate during the winter. They hibernate in dens in large groups, with hundreds of garter snakes sometimes found together (and sometimes other snake species, according to Beane). According to the Virtual Nature Trail, one den in Canada was the hibernation spot of more than 8,000 snakes. Garter snakes will travel long distances to a communal den for hibernation, according to the ADW.

Beane said that garter snakes “feed mostly on fishes, amphibians, and earthworms; other prey are occasionally taken.” The snakes immobilize their prey with their sharp teeth and quick reflexes. The saliva of some species contains a mild neurotoxin that causes paralysis, making small prey easier to swallow. Like other snakes, garter snakes swallow their food whole, according to the ADW. Beane said “some larger prey may be dragged and chewed until killed by trauma.”

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While most species are classified as harmless (non-venomous), their bite can cause minor swelling or itching in humans, and anyone bitten by a garter snake should clean the bite thoroughly. It is not ultimately a cause for concern. Allergic reactions to the saliva have been known, but cases are extremely rare, according to the ADW.


According to Beane, the best situations for mating are “when they emerge [from hibernation] in the spring and also when they congregate again in fall . because they are already gathered together for hibernation and do not have to waste energy seeking mates.” But for garter snakes in more temperate areas where they don’t hibernate, the snakes rely on pheromones.

Female garter snakes give off pheromones to attract males. Dozens of males will come to one female, which is why homeowners sometimes think garter snakes are overrunning their neighborhoods. According to the biology department at Reed College, this mass of mating snakes is called a “mating ball.”

Some males use trickery to confuse their competition, according to Reed College. They will secrete female pheromones to lure other males toward them rather than to the female. After the other males are away from the mating ball, the males posing as females will dart back to the female to attempt to mate. [Related: Estrogen Turns Male Snakes Into Same-Sex Charmers]

Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they bear live young. After mating, females store sperm in their bodies until they want to fertilize their eggs. Garter snakes give birth to 20 to 40 live young at a time, though Beane pointed out that litter sizes can vary greatly. “As few as five and as many as 101 have been reported,” he said. Parent snakes do not care for their young.


There are 30 species of garter snakes and many more subspecies, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The taxonomy of garter snakes is:

Kingdom: Animalia Subkingdom: Bilateria Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Infraphylum: Gnathostomata Superclass: Tetrapoda Class: Reptilia Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes Infraorder: Alethinophidia Family: Colubridae Subfamily: Natricinae Genus: Thamnophis

Species: 30, including:

Thamnophis sirtalis (common garter snake): The common garter snake has the largest range, occurring in most of the continental United States with several subspecies, according to Beane. They are found everywhere from Alaska to Florida, though they do not live in the Southwest. Common garter snakes usually have three white, yellow, blue, or green stripes running the lengths of their brown or olive bodies. Their heads are darker than their bodies.

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis (Eastern garter snake): This subspecies of common garter snake is typical throughout the eastern United States. Though its body color may vary from brown to green, it almost always has three yellowish stripes on its back, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Sometimes its body is splotchy, giving it a checked appearance. Eastern garter snakes in Georgia and Florida sometimes have bluish coloring.

Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis (red-sided garter snake): This California subspecies of common garter snake can be stunning. Blue or yellow stripes pop against the dark olive or black body, and red bars line the sides of the body. The red-sided garter snake has a red or orange head and a blue underside. North of the San Francisco Bay Area, the underside is sometimes a brilliant bright blue. Its eyes are larger than other garter snake species. According to California Herps, it is able to eat Pacific newts, which are poisonous to other predators.

Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia (San Francisco garter snake):According to California Herps, this San Francisco peninsula snake has a red head, big eyes, and wide, blue-green, black, and red stripes. Its underside is blue-green. Like the red-sided garter snake, it eats Pacific newts.

Thamnophis marcianus (Checkered garter snake): This small, southwestern snake has a dark checkered pattern over its entire body, plus three thin light-colored stripes, according to Herps of Texas. It is rarely longer than 2 feet.

Thamnophis sirtalis annectens (Texas garter snake): This common garter snake subspecies primarily resides in the Lone Star State, though according to Wildlife North America, there is a population in Kansas. It has a dark colored back with a bright red stripe down its center and two light-colored stripes on its sides.

Conservation status

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species lists common garter snakes as «least concern» for threat of extinction, noting their wide range and population size, estimated to be more than 1 million adults in the wild.

Under the name garden bug hides many different subspecies

Subject: Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Guateng, South Africa
Date: 04/20/2020
Time: 05:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello there.
I found this in our garden this morning and would like to know if you have any idea on what exatly it is please
How you want your letter signed: Any way the bug xpert likes

Hornworm of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth

Dear Any way,
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth. Hawkmoth caterpillars are commonly called Hornworms.

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No related posts.

Scarlet Tipped Wasp Moth from Panama

Subject: Crimson bug species? Panama fauna!
Geographic location of the bug: San Miguelito, Panama.
Date: 04/14/2020
Time: 05:28 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi bugman. I’ve only seen this bug twice in my life 3 years appart first in 2009 and then in 2012. Both times it was just standing still inside my house and both insects were identical. Back then there were a lot of jungle-like green areas around my house for context. This bug was about 5cm / 2 inches long, had “feathery” antennae, transparent wings, the most posterior part of the abdomen was “hairy” (i think the sides of the abdomen were hairy too but less hairy) and I confirmed it was capable of flight as I accidentaly startled it when I was taking the photo. Well as you can see most of the body is colored with (really strong) red and black. The thorax has two parallel white lines. I never saw the ventral part of the insect.
Is this a moth? A butterfly? This question has been haunting me for 10 years. Well thanks and have fun with this one!
PS:Sorry if I used wrong terms in my anatomical description.
How you want your letter signed: A curious physician

Scarlet Tipped Wasp Moth

Dear curious physician,
We are impressed that you identified this as a moth or butterfly. It is a Moth, but one that is often mistaken for a wasp. It is a Scarlet Tipped Wasp Moth,
Dinia aeagrus, and we identified it on Project Noah. You can also find it pictured on FlickR.

Related posts:

Wings of a Green Milkweed Locust from South Africa

Subject: Need Wing Identification
Geographic location of the bug: South Africa
Date: 04/14/2020
Time: 02:58 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found these wings in my yard and i canot find anything on google please help
How you want your letter signed: Please just email me thanks a lot

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Wings of a Green Milkweed Locust

These are Grasshopper wings, and we are very confident they are the wings of a Green Milkweed Locust, Phymateus viridipes. As they are toxic to many animals and presumably unpalatable to others, we are curious what ate the body and left the wings behind. Here is an image from FlickR and information on Wikipedia.

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Newly Hatched True Bugs from Singapore

Subject: spider looking bug on curtain
Geographic location of the bug: singapore
Date: 04/02/2020
Time: 05:18 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: i found this egg cluster on my curtain and there were a few bunch of eggs surrounded by insects with 8(?) legs and i’m scarred.
How you want your letter signed: –

True Bug Hatchlings

These are newly hatched True Bugs in the suborder Heteroptera. Though there are some True Bugs like Bed Bugs and Kissing Bugs that will bite humans, most True Bugs are not directly harmful to people, though many are considered plant pests. We cannot identify these True Bug hatchlings more specifically, but in our opinion, you have no cause for alarm.

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Hairy Flower Wasp from Australia

Subject: What is it
Geographic location of the bug: Yarra glen 3775
Date: 03/24/2020
Time: 12:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Whats this bug please
How you want your letter signed: Jen

Hairy Flower Wasp

Dear Jen,
This is a Flower Wasp or Scarab Hunter in the family Scoliidae, and based on the image posted to Museum Victoria Collections, we are relatively confident it is the Hairy Flower Wasp,
Austroscolia soror. The site states: “Austroscolia soror (previously in the genus Scolia is the most frequently seen species of Flower Wasp found in Victoria back yards. During the summer months Museums Victoria’s Discovery Centre receives many enquiries from people who are curious about a largish blue wasp. These wasps are usually identified as this species. These wasps will most likely be seen flying just above ground level and in particular flying near or around compost heaps, wood heaps or dead stumps of trees where the female wasps are looking for beetle larvae, (usually scarab beetles but sometimes weevils). Unlike the European Honeybee, European Wasp, and some native species, the Hairy Flower Wasps do not make a nest or form colonies. If several are seen flying around a compost heap or tree stump it simply means that several wasps are investigating for beetle larvae at the same time. The wasps are strong burrowers and when they find a beetle larva they sting and paralyse it and lay an egg on it. On hatching the young wasp has a live, paralysed food source waiting for it. Adult Hairy Flower Wasps drink nectar and so are frequent visitors to flowers where their size and colour make them easy to see when sitting on a flower. Nectar provides them with food energy in the form of sugars that they use to power their wing muscles. Hairy Flower Wasps do possess a sting, but they do not have a communal hive to defend and so tend not to be aggressive.” Here is an image from our archive with a female Hairy Flower Wasp and her Scarab grub prey.

Related posts:


Subject: Termite?
Geographic location of the bug: Anaheim California
Date: 04/01/2020
Time: 08:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I took this picture March 25, 2020 not sure what that bug is,
Hopefully someone can tell me.
How you want your letter signed: Ken O

Dear Ken,
We are relatively certain this is a Mealybug based on this BugGuide image. According to the University of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program: “The citrus mealybug (
Planococcus citri) is the most common species found on plant foliage. It feeds on a wide variety of plants, and especially likes soft-stemmed and succulent plants such as coleus, fuchsia, croton, jade, poinsettia and cactus. In my greenhouse I also find them consistently on rosemary, citrus, and bird of paradise. ” You did not indicate where you found it.

Cedar of Lebanon Growing Profile

Patricia Hamilton / Getty Images

The cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is an evergreen conifer that will be a stately addition to your garden. It is considered to be one of the true cedars and is the species that is the best at tolerating cold temperatures.

The flag from Lebanon sports one of these trees on it. It is also mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh and several times in the Bible by name. This evergreen is a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Latin Name

The botanical name for this species is Cedrus libani. There are two different subspecies: Cedrus libani subsp. libani is named as the cedar of Lebanon and Cedrus libani subsp. stenocoma is the Taurus or Turkish cedar. The genus also includes the weeping blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica «Glauca Pendula»).

The genus is included in the Pinaceae (pine) family, which also features spruce trees, pine trees, fir trees, and the deciduous conifers.

Common Names

This evergreen is the cedar of Lebanon or Lebanon cedar. The name comes because one place that it is found is in the forests of Lebanon.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

The libani subspecies generally grows best in Zones 6-9. The stenocoma subspecies can grow in Zone 5. It originally comes from the Mediterranean region.

Size and Shape

Cedrus libani is usually 40-70 feet tall and 30-60 feet wide, but it can be over 100 feet tall and 80 feet wide. When it is young it has a pyramidal shape, but as it matures it broadens and opens, producing a flat top.


Your cedar of Lebanon will need a planting site that offers full sun.


The branches produce both long and short shoots. The clusters of green needles have four sides and each one is up to 1 1/2 inches long.

Cedrus libani is a monoecious species. You can distinguish the cones by their color; the males are yellow and the females are purple.

The egg-shaped cones are three to five inches long and change to reddish-brown as they reach maturity. This process will take two years to complete.

Design Tips

This evergreen tree is often utilized in estate gardens and public parks. Keep in mind that this is a slow-growing tree and it may take many years to reach its mature height.

You should look for the «Pendula» variety if you want a weeping tree. «Aurea» has needles that feature yellow tones. For a small shrub version, choose «Sargentii.»

Growing Tips

Cedrus libani prefers acidic soil, but it can also grow in neutral and alkaline pH levels. Make sure that your planting site offers good drainage to help avoid problems with root rot.

This species is often difficult to transplant, so you can start it from seed in the desired location or plant a young specimen.

Propagation is mainly done through seed germination. If you are working with a cultivar, you will need to graft it onto rootstock to preserve the integrity of its notable characteristics.

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Maintenance and Pruning

The cedar of Lebanon can be pruned to form a central leader if desired as it may form several different ones if left alone. However, the multiple leaders help the tree form into an attractive shape. Any pruning should be done during the fall.

Pests and Diseases

There are not too many problems associated with Cedrus libani. You may see some aphids on the tree which can be naturally dispatched by ladybugs or simply by spraying them off the branch with water if it is low enough. Honey fungi may pop up as well as tip blight and root rot.

Terminology: genus and species

Terminology: genus and species

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Terminology: Genus and Species
Let’s start by discussing what is meant by the terms genus and species. An easy way to remember these terms is to note that genus refers to the «generic» name, and species refers to the «specific» name.

A genus is a group of related plants. The similarity among members of a genus may or may not be obvious. But taxonomists have determined that, due to certain features, these plants are related and thus classify them in the same genus. Genus names are often derived from Latin or Greek words, mythological figures, or plant characteristics.

The species name is the basic unit of classification. It describes one kind of plant within the genus, and is almost always an adjective. By itself, the species name is meaningless. For example, Digitalis purpurea is the botanical name for foxglove, while Echinacea purpurea is the name for purple coneflower. The species name, purpurea, indicates only that some part of the plant is purple; by itself it gives no clue to the identity of the plant.

Just what criteria are used to separate out individual species? This is a difficult question to answer precisely. Generally speaking, a species is a type of plant having certain characteristics that differentiate it from other members of the genus, and which retains these distinctions through successive generations. Individuals of different plant species often cannot interbreed—though, unlike for animals, this is not a reliable criterion for defining a species in the plant world.

Information on the thousands of plant groups and hundreds of thousands of species continues to accumulate. As a result, plant classifications are sometimes modified to reflect new information about plant relationships. In addition, it is often up to individual botanists to determine when a group of plants is different enough from others in the genus to constitute designation as a unique species.

Let’s look at one interesting plant species: Brassica oleracea.

You’ve probably grown some of what are commonly referred to as the brassicas—especially since this group of plants has been in the news for its reputed health-promoting properties.

So, which type of brassica does Brassica oleracea refer to? Broccoli? Cauliflower? Cabbage? Kale? Collards?

Well, the answer is «yes.» All these vegetables are classified under the same species name. They have common ancestry in a type of wild mustard, and have been bred by horticulturists to the various forms they now have. This brings us to an important point. If plant classification of wild plants is a confusing matter, it is even more so with highly-bred, domesticated crop plants. Through careful cross-breeding and selection, horticulturists have «created» all these familiar vegetables from the same wild ancestor.

Under the name garden bug hides many different subspecies

I decided to hop on the Pokemon variations because I’m biology and Pokemon trash and headcanons for subspecies and species variations of Pokemon are both those things.

But really, I haven’t seen too many Pokemon variations for Joltik. Which is sad because guys, c’mon, spiders. I mean think of how diverse spiders are in appearance and behavior. imagine the possibilities.

I’m not much of an artist but I chose five different spiders (their name written under) as subspecies of the standard (cave Joltik) to draw with the habitat their suited for written below them and i also wrote some headcanons to go along with them.

Pink Fairy Joltik (Garden): A variation of the standard Joltik that was discovered only very recently, this subspecies is slightly smaller than the rest of its cousins and has adapted camouflage to disguise itself as a part of a flowering plant. As humans encroached on their natural habitat they quickly adapted to live alongside and were discovered soon after. Part of their diet consists of parasitic insects and pest, making them a welcome guest in any garden. This subspecies is popular among Pokemon Breeders and Pokemon Competition Trainers for its gentle demeanor and attractive colors and markings.

Bridge-Builder Joltik (Forest): One of the most common subspecies of Joltik that’s versatility allows it to live in almost any wooded environment. An orb-weaver bug type that builds some on the largest webs in the world, it exhibits a unique behavior of building bridge-like web structures to get across bodies of water. The silk of the Forest Joltiks is one of the toughest biological materials found. The threads of silk are ten times tougher than similar sized pieces of Kevlar, the man made material used in bullet proof vests and is currently being studied by engineers and biologists for the possibility of being harvested and used by humans.

Boulder Joltik (Mountains): The largest of all subspecies of Joltik. Known as the “Rock Climber Pokemon” it can scale any type of surface, even glass. They possess an extra set of legs used for scaling rocks and jumping on to high ledges. The texture of its hair its bristly, course, and tough and acts as an extra layer of protection adapted for harsh environments. Because of its strength and size it is popular with Pokemon Battle trainers.

Clown Joltik (Tropical Climates): The tropical Climates Joltik, or Clown Joltik as they are better known. Live in tropical climate zones in habitats such as wetlands and rain-forests. They live beneath the leaves of plants and the markings on their backs are to frighten potential predators away. To humans, their markings appear to be a grinning face. popular legend says if someone comes across this Pokemon, it means that joy and good fortune will come your way soon.

Golden Joltik (Safari Zone): Golden Joltik are a critically endangered subspecies of Joltik, driven to near extinction by deforestation and black market trade for their silk, the can only be found in Safari Zones today. The webs they spin have a shimmering reflective color and almost appear to be spun out of pure gold. They are increasingly shy and as a protected species it is illegal to disturb their webs or capture them.

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